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Peter’s Take: Board Majority Hides Projects Sacrificed for Streetcar

by Peter Rousselot | July 24, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 1,727 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotPrior to approving its latest Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a bare majority of the Arlington County Board (Fisette, Hynes, Tejada) voted to deny the public access to critical information. The information they suppressed relates to new transportation projects that are being denied funding or delayed as streetcar costs continue escalating sharply.

The vote to suppress this information comes at a time that this same majority has sanctioned a $650,000 public relations campaign at taxpayer expense to promote the streetcar.

Both actions represent desperate attempts to refloat a sinking ship.

The CIP approved by the Board on July 19 documents sharp increases in streetcar costs as a percentage of Arlington’s total capital budget.

Two years ago, in the FY 2013-2022 CIP, the Columbia Pike streetcar was projected to consume 8 percent of the total CIP and the Crystal City Streetcar 6 percent, for a CIP total of 14 percent devoted to the two streetcars combined. Today, both projects have jumped in cost, and total 19 percent of the FY 2015-2024 CIP for the two streetcars.

In other words, just two streetcar lines totaling only 7.4 miles, consume 19 percent of our total Arlington capital budget, or nearly one out of five of our proposed capital spending dollars over the next 10 years. 

In an effort to determine what new transportation projects might be sacrificed in this streetcar sinkhole, Board members Vihstadt and Garvey in June asked County staff the following question and received the following answer:

Q. If we do not build a streetcar, for what can the money planned for the streetcar be used?

A. Providing alternative projects that could be funded if the streetcar is not funded would require significant additional analysis that a majority of the Board could direct staff to undertake.

Faced with this response, Vihstadt, seconded by Garvey, made the following motion at the County Board’s July 17 CIP work session:

I move that the County Board direct the County Manager to develop and prioritize a list of all Arlington transportation projects over the next 10 years, including information as to budget amounts, funding sources and by fiscal year, that could be funded if we cease all Arlington streetcar spending now (save for legal requirements) and do not move forward with either the Columbia Pike or Route 1 Streetcar projects.

Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada voted against the motion, and the motion was defeated.

With more than half a billion dollars on the line, the County Board majority has denied Arlington voters and taxpayers critical information they need to make informed decisions.

Why are they afraid of providing this information?

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Peter’s Take: Van Doren for School Board

by Peter Rousselot | July 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm | 478 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotNancy Van Doren has announced that she plans to run in the special election for the seat on the Arlington School Board that will become vacant on Aug. 1 when Noah Simon resigns.

I support Nancy for the Democratic endorsement and for election in the special election to fill this seat.

Priorities

Among the priorities Nancy has promised to pursue as a School Board member are these:

Educational Excellence for All Students 

Academic success for each student is Nancy’s top priority. Students must leave high school prepared for higher education and success in our technology-driven global economy. Arlington Public Schools must consistently offer students the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of race, economic status, ethnicity, gender, language or disability.

The strategies Nancy will emphasize include:

  • Providing our highly-qualified teachers with the tools, training, and resources necessary to meet the needs of each student in their classroom.
  • Ensuring children develop strong reading skills by the start of fourth grade, when students begin reading for content.
  • Using proven approaches to close the achievement gap.
  • Providing all students with equal instruction time and the opportunity to study a second language, beginning in elementary school. FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) should be implemented in all schools.

 Making Room for All Students

  • Maximize the use of all existing space within our schools.
  • Creatively use space in and around the County to meet capacity needs. Consider renting vacant office space, using County facilities, increasing the use of the Career Center, increasing our partnership with area colleges, and using flexible scheduling and on-line classes, particularly at the high school level.
  • Build adequate, flexible classroom space through additions to schools or constructing new buildings, when and where necessary, within fiscal constraints.

County/Schools Collaboration

  • The School and County Boards and their staffs must integrate their long-range planning efforts so that together they can accommodate and fund the County’s growth within its overall budget.
  • Coordinate County resources shared by all residents, young and old: land, facilities, transportation, social services, and recreation.

Additional priorities that Nancy plans to pursue are available at this link: http://www.nancyvandoren.org/#!page3/cee5

Community Service

Nancy Van Doren is an education advocate with 10 years of experience as a parent, volunteer, and leader in Arlington Public Schools. You can access extensive further details at this link: http://www.nancyvandoren.org/#!page2/cjg9

Personal and Family Background 

Nancy has lived for 10 years in Ashton Heights with her husband, Jack Zetkulic, who is an educator and international consultant. They have four children:  Patsy, and Katie, who attend Washington-Lee High School; Annie, who attends Jefferson Middle School; and Matthew, a recent W-L graduate headed to the University of Virginia.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

The Right Note: What to do About Expired IDs

by Mark Kelly | July 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,076 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

Virginia’s photo identification law is going into effect for the general election this fall. The requirement is that every voter be able to produce a photo ID at their polling place in order to cast a vote. The law is certainly not without its detractors, but it is the law, and as such it should be properly enforced.

As a reminder, according to the State Board of Elections, any Virginia drivers license or other DMV-issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, any Virginia higher-learning institution photo ID, any government-issued photo ID, and employer-issued photo IDs will be accepted. Anyone without one of these accepted photo IDs will be able to go to a local registrar’s office and obtain a photo ID card free of charge.

The latest question is whether an expired ID will be accepted and if so, how long it can be expired. State officials are contemplating limiting the acceptance of validly issued ID’s to 30 days after they expired. They are currently open for public comments on the matter.

Arlington officials said via Twitter that the expiration date “shouldn’t matter” for purposes of proving you are who you say you are. While a true statement on its face, Arlington election officials are staking out the wrong position on this issue.

Putting safeguards around the voter ID law, like an expiration date requirement, makes sense. One of the problems that has been demonstrated in voting are individuals registered in, and too often voting in, more than one state.

Earlier this spring, it was revealed that 44,000 people were registered to vote in both Maryland and Virginia. If one of those voters, living in Maryland and registered to vote there, still possesses an expired Virginia ID, should they be allowed to vote in Virginia if their name still appears on the voter rolls here? While it does not happen often, and it is already a violation of the law, your vote should not be canceled or devalued because someone voted improperly in Virginia.

If we are going to have a photo ID law to protect against any voter fraud, then it ought to require that the ID be current. A 30-day rule would give someone who made an honest mistake in not renewing their ID a safe harbor. Going beyond that, or having no expiration date requirement at all, is simply creating a loophole in a law that already goes out of its way to accept current IDs.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Progressive Voice: Representing Arlington in Richmond

by Barbara Favola | July 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 745 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Barbara FavolaFor decades, Arlington has been at the forefront of moving Virginia in a more progressive direction.

On key issues like school desegregation, rights of Virginians with disabilities, providing workplace benefits and protections for LGBT Virginians, mental health treatment, women’s equality, protecting reproductive rights, and advocating for environmental protections, Arlington’s General Assembly members have fought tirelessly and effectively to overcome conservative forces that have held Virginia back from achieving its potential.

Outstanding elected officials like Mary Marshall, Mary Margaret Whipple, Ed Holland, Judy Connally, and Bob Brink are among those who have achieved progressive victories in Richmond. They have also fought harmful legislation that conservative legislators — most recently in the Republican caucus — pushed forward in response to calls for party loyalty regardless of the interests of constituents at home.

As we approach the House of Delegates 48th District Special Election on Aug. 19, I hope we will follow the example set by legislators like Bob Brink and ensure that Arlington’s interests are not sacrificed to partisan conservative interests in Richmond.

We have two candidates for the 48th District who have been longtime residents of Northern Virginia and are known as being personable, professional, civically engaged, and respectful of others.

However, I hope voters recognize that these candidates have some major policy differences on issues that will come up on a regular basis in the General Assembly.

Given that the candidates will have only weeks to communicate their legislative platforms, ideas, and perspectives with voters in the 48th District, I thought it important to highlight a few of their policy differences.

Gun Control

Rip Sullivan believes we can and must fix the gun show loophole, which allows certain sellers to avoid running background checks on buyers. This is how some people who shouldn’t own guns acquire them. He will fight to close the gun show loophole. His opponent, Dave Foster, said in his 2009 attorney general’s race for the Republican nomination that the gun show loophole is not a loophole.

Rip believes our national parks, like Great Falls, are sacred grounds where we should be able to run, hike, swim, and picnic without the fear of a gun discharging. Dave has said he wants to eliminate the ban on carrying firearms in national parks.

Women’s Reproductive Rights

Rip believes that reproductive health decisions should be left to a woman and her doctor, and that the government has no business interfering. Dave has said he opposes abortion and that Roe v. Wade was a case of “judges imposing their will.”

Defending the Status Quo on Testing Requirements

While serving on the Virginia State Board of Education, Dave Foster resisted SOL reform that would have made common sense adjustments to state testing requirements. Rip Sullivan supported the 2014 law reducing the number of standardized tests and providing more flexibility to localities and teachers to determine how best to ensure that students are learning the necessary curriculum.

Supporting Conservative Politicians

Dave has called Ken Cuccinelli a “great legislator,” and supported Cuccinelli for attorney general in 2009 and governor in 2013. He has endorsed and financially supported Virginia Tea Party leaders and is former chair of GOPAC-Virginia, a fundraising arm of the Republican National Committee. (more…)

Morning Poll: Streetcar Crystal Ball

by ARLnow.com | July 11, 2014 at 10:55 am | 1,241 views | No Comments

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia PikeArlington County’s PR campaign to inform residents of the benefit of the streetcar continues.

This week we reported — followed by other local TV, print and online outlets — that the county had produced more television spots that try to explain “why streetcar.”

Among the expected benefits along Columbia Pike are more development, increased county tax revenue, increased transit ridership, and the preservation of affordable housing.

If you could look into a crystal ball to 2030, and see a revitalized Columbia Pike where all of those things came true thanks to streetcar, would you support the project now?
 

Progressive Voice: Holland for Sullivan in the 48th

by Paul Holland | July 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 444 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Paul HollandArlington’s recent trend of monthly elections will continue with a special election on August 19th to choose the successor to our retiring Delegate in the 48th District, Bob Brink.

Following an intense, week-long campaign, Democrats nominated Rip Sullivan as their candidate for the special election. Although I finished second in Sunday’s nominating caucus, I’m proud to give my endorsement and full support to Rip Sullivan.

Rip will be an outstanding candidate and he can be counted on to be the same kind of thoughtful and effective legislator as Bob Brink was during his 17 years of service as 48th District Delegate.

Rip will also be an important ally to Governor McAuliffe and work tirelessly to promote policies and values that align with the majority of the residents of the 48th District. He will focus on issues such as women’s health care, environmental protection, education funding, expanding access to health care, affordable housing, transportation solutions, and advancing the rights of LGBT Virginians. Rip will work against a House Republican agenda that is out of step with the 48th District.

Rip and his wife Beth met in high school here in Northern Virginia. They raised their four kids here, and they have all graduated from public schools. Rip and his wife used to live in Arlington, and they continue to spend lots of time here — professionally and socially.

Rip also has extensive experience serving Northern Virginia and the 48th District in a volunteer capacity as an appointed member on numerous local, regional, and statewide commissions. His local experience includes service on the Fairfax Transportation Advisory Commission, Consumer Protection Commission, Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Park Authority. He’s the former president of the non-profit Legal Services of Northern Virginia, and was appointed by Governor Tim Kaine to the Virginia Commission on Civics Education.

These experiences have given Rip a deep understanding of issues and policies that are important to residents of the 48th District.

On transportation, Rip understands that effective transportation and transit solutions can achieve multiple goals: reduce congestion, protect and create open space, preserve affordable housing, and promote economic development.

As the father of a special education teacher, Rip recognizes the importance of assessing progress, both for our students and our teachers, without creating additional hurdles and barriers to success. He is a strong supporter of SOL reforms that result in sensible testing requirements – requirements that measure our student’s achievements, identify achievement gaps, and provide our teachers with the flexibility to teach beyond the test.

Rip has worked to protect and expand affordable housing opportunities in our region. He understands how to leverage federal housing resources to meet identified housing needs at the community level.

On the environment, Rip is a strong advocate for increasing our investment in renewable energy. To address the impact of climate change, he supports a renewable portfolio standard and incentives. He also supports tax credits that would encourage individuals and small businesses to install solar panels or small wind systems. Rip understands the value of preserving our parks and open space resources and would work with the regional authorities to ensure these places remain open, accessible and undeveloped.

On human services, Rip supports raising the minimum wage and tipped wages, opposes efforts to reduce the social safety net, and is an advocate for expanding workforce training programs that will promote economic opportunity across the income spectrum. He is a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion and the benefits it would bring to the Commonwealth, including providing medical coverage to more than 400,000 uninsured Virginians.

Throughout this campaign, Rip has been open and accessible to the residents he hopes to represent, even giving out his cell phone number in his campaign literature. For more information on Rip and his experience working on important issues, you can visit his campaign website at www.RipSullivanForDelegate.com.

With vigorous debate in Richmond on Medicaid expansion, gun control, women’s reproductive health, and the environment, it is important voters know where Rip and his Republican opponent stand. The Sullivan campaign has already called for a candidate debate, and I look forward to hearing more about the differences between Rip and his Republican opponent.

Rip will be a champion for our Arlington values in Richmond, and if you live in the 48th District, I hope you’ll join me and cast your vote for Rip Sullivan for Delegate in the August 19th special election.

Paul Holland is a lifelong Arlington resident, former Chair of the Park and Recreation Commission, and former candidate for the 48th House of Delegates District.

Peter’s Take: Carla de la Pava for Treasurer

by Peter Rousselot | July 10, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 546 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotOn July 7, Carla de la Pava was sworn in as Arlington County Treasurer immediately after the previous Treasurer, Frank O’Leary, resigned. She “plans to run in the special election, expected to be held Nov. 4, to fill out O’Leary’s term, which runs through December 2015.”

I support Carla for the Democratic nomination for Treasurer and for election in the special election to fill this position.

Carla has served as the Chief Deputy Treasurer of Arlington County for the last six years. During her service in this position, the Treasurer’s Office has established a record as one of the best in Virginia and the United States. Arlington’s tax delinquency rate stands at an all-time low of 0.41%.

According to outgoing Treasurer O’Leary:

Arlington is one of the few jurisdictions in Virginia that publishes its delinquency rate; O’Leary estimated most localities have rates 10 times that of the county.

Carla’s performance in collecting our taxes shines. At the same time, rapidly growing numbers of voters justifiably are concerned that their property tax bills — based on the tax rate set by the County Board – are the highest in Northern Virginia.

Carla also has an outstanding record of community service. She is actively involved with numerous community organizations, including Leadership Arlington (Class of 2010), the Arlington Civic Federation (Vice President) and Toast of Arlington. She is a member of the Arlington Committee of 100, Better Sports Club of Arlington, Vice President and Board member of the Arlington Soccer Association, Yorktown Patriots Football Boosters, and Organized Women Voters.

Carla graduated from Wesleyan University in 1981 with a degree in Economics. Her first job was in Corporate Banking in the Chicago and Atlanta offices of the Continental Bank of Illinois. In 1985, she earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. After obtaining her MBA, Carla went to work at The Price Company, which at the time owned and operated Price Club (now Costco). This experience inspired Carla to develop a lifelong interest in operations and management.

Carla is married to Mark Dola, a life-long Arlingtonian. Their three sons, Christopher, Michael and Peter Dola, attended Arlington Science Focus Elementary School, Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School.

To learn more about Carla de la Pava, you can access her campaign website here: http://carlafortreasurer.com/

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

The Right Note: Pull Back the Curtain

by Mark Kelly | July 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 896 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyWith the County Board authorizing $650,000 in expenditures to promote the Columbia Pike trolley, one has to ask why?

The three Board supporters constantly explain to us that the decision has been made and that the project will go forward regardless of any opposition. Why then, do they feel the need to sell it to us? It seems to be a waste of taxpayer resources since the people who are currently allowed to vote on it hold a 3-2 advantage on the Board.

It is hard not to arrive at the conclusion that it is being done for one reason — political gain. Alan Howze lost the special election in April, largely over this issue. He is trying to win a full term in November.

Next year, two of the current trolley supporters on the Board will face the voters. A taxpayer-funded ad campaign to blunt criticism of the half-billion dollar project is certainly in their electoral interests.

It may be time for local media to ask more questions about the decision-making process. Who originally proposed the PR campaign? Why was it undertaken? What instructions were given about how to move forward on the ads and other materials?

In the same vein, the change of Treasurer in Arlington for the first time in three decades opens a question, could the Treasurer’s office do more to provide transparency of county spending?

Frank O’Leary has come forward with questions about Arlington’s finances — most recently calling into question our growing cash-on-hand numbers. Why not open the books even more?

Reports are the County Manager will soon have in place an auditor on the county staff. Hopefully, the trolley-related contracts will be at the top of their list. While I applaud John Vihstadt for pushing for an internal audit function, the new staff member will report to the County Manager. That chain of command leaves open the question of whether the office will have the independence it needs to shed light on spending decisions.

Public pressure brought about by increased transparency via an independently-elected office holder may be help fill the information gap. The Virginia Code specifically contemplates Internet access to nonconfidential public records from the Treasurer’s office. There is no reason with today’s technology that we could not put Arlington’s checkbook online in a cost-effective way that provides maximum information without compromising any confidential material.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Morning Poll: Should News Outlets Ban the Name ‘Redskins?’

by ARLnow.com | July 9, 2014 at 11:55 am | 1,801 views | No Comments

Washington Redskins HelmetThe controversy over the name of Washington’s professional football team shows no signs of dying down.

Earlier this week, Democratic blogger and former Arlington resident Ben Tribbett made national news when he resigned from the Redskins. The team hired him two weeks prior to support the public relations battle against sentiment that “Redskins” as a racial slur against Native Americans.

Tribbett, a supporter of the name, said he resigned because the debate got too personal — “things got too hot to handle” and became a distraction to the team.

Tribbett’s hiring came as pressure mounts on the Redskins and owner Dan Snyder to change the name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last month revoked the trademark on “Redskins,” saying it is “disparaging of Native Americans.” For that same reason, media organizations from the Washington City Paper to the Seattle Times to a student newspaper in Pennsylvania have been banning the use of the team’s name in news coverage.

Tribbett, who now lives in Lorton, says he continues to support the Redskins and thinks news outlets should report, not moralize when it comes to the name.

“The reason I support the Redskins name is, I don’t think it’s a slur first of all,” Tribbett told ARLnow.com this morning. “Having grown up in this area, nothing brought the entire D.C. area together more than the Redskins, and the idea that it’s now a divisive issue really bothers me.”

“I don’t see why anyone would not publish the name, the name of the football team is the Washington Redskins,” Tribbett continued. “Until Dan Snyder or someone else says otherwise, i think journalists should report the news and not make it.”

What do you think? Should news outlets — including ARLnow.com — ban the name or keep using it?
 

The Right Note: Never a Dull Moment in Arlington

by Mark Kelly | July 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm | 1,145 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyI need to check the record books, but 2014 is shaping up to have the most special elections in Arlington history. Over the past week, Del. Bob Brink, School Board member Noah Simon, and Treasurer Frank O’Leary have resigned. The special election for the seat in the General Assembly will take place Aug. 19 and the other two are likely to be held in conjunction with the general election Nov. 4.

Del. Brink started spending more time in Richmond and less in Arlington in recent years, and is not to be blamed to want to take a full-time Virginia government job as he contemplates retirement. I first got to know Del. Brink in 2007 while campaigning around the county. I joked with him after redistricting that he intentionally had me drawn out of his district to cut down on potential opposition.

Brink quipped that he was almost never on the winning side of a vote in the House of Delegates. Maybe voters will take into account who can actually work with the overwhelming Republican majority in Richmond to advance Arlington’s interests. With 68 of 100 seats, the Republicans are set to control the chamber for years to come. Sending another solid “NO” vote on everything would seem counter-productive.

Noah Simon had a promising future ahead of him that was cut short by the tragic loss of his wife. He is to be commended for putting his children first in this decision, and my prayers are with his family.

Simon’s replacement joins the School Board at a critical time to try and thread the needle on meeting capacity needs without overshooting the target, with limited space to build new buildings, and with tremendous pressure on where boundary lines fall. And, when Arlington spends more than $22,000 per child, parents will have high expectations on how those decisions are made.

There was never a dull moment with Treasurer O’Leary. Readers of this column know that I particularly appreciated it that he took the County Board to task for growing surpluses. O’Leary felt like taxes could be lowered instead. His fellow Democrats on the County Board, on the other hand, did NOT appreciate it.

In November, voters will permanently elect the first new treasurer in 31 years. It would be nice if the guardian of our tax dollars would increase the pressure on the County Board to account for where all those dollars go.

Infusing new blood into Arlington’s elected leadership is healthy. Just as in April’s special election for County Board, I hope voters will have a choice between competing ideas and directions when they head the polls. If nothing else, it will force Democrats to take, and defend, positions on the issues we face.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Peter’s Take: Fisette Sends Wrong Message on Uber

by Peter Rousselot | July 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,318 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotArlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette sent the wrong message last month about highly popular ride sharing services like Uber:

In the end, Fisette said Arlington would participate in a state study into the Uber issue, but didn’t say what kind of perspective the county would bring to the table. “As a locality, we don’t really have a point of view except that we have to enforce the law,” he said.

As I have explained, Arlington lacks the authority unilaterally to change the law under which ride sharing services like Uber operate. Under Virginia’s “Dillon Rule”, changing the law has to be done at the state level. But, Arlington certainly could have a “point of view” — if it chose to have one. Arlington could bring its perspective to the table.

Arlington knows how to develop a point of view about issues over which it lacks authority to change the law. Look no further than the point of view the County Board (including Fisette) unanimously adopted four years ago on the subject of enforcement of federal law regarding undocumented immigrants.

In a September 2010 press release announcing its decision to direct the County Manager to look for ways in which to withdraw from enforcement of the federal “Secure Communities” program, the Board stated:

[T]he “Secure Communities Initiative will create divisions in our community and promote a culture of fear and distrust of law enforcement that threatens public safety and makes communities less safe,”

[...]

[I]t is not the role or the desire of the Arlington County Police Department to take on the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws. [The Board] reaffirmed its support for existing County policies and procedures that prohibit racial profiling and protect crime victims and witnesses.

The Board concluded by explicitly calling on the U.S. Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.  Even though it ended in failure, I applaud Jay Fisette and the County Board for the stand they took in 2010. They sent the right message to large numbers of Arlington residents who felt threatened by the federal program in question.

Today, vast numbers of Arlington residents say that ride sharing services like Uber are wildly popular for many good reasons. Jay Fisette ought to be demonstrating the same degree of empathy for these residents that he demonstrated four years ago for undocumented immigrants.

This is the message Jay Fisette should send on ride sharing services like Uber:

I am enthusiastic about the many benefits to Arlington customers that ride sharing services like Uber offer. I am committed to doing everything I can to enable these services to thrive.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Progressive Voice: A Look Back and a Look Forward

by Bob Brink | July 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 390 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Del. Bob Brink (D-48)This week, I stepped down after 17 years as the 48th District’s Delegate in Richmond. This milestone gave me a chance to reflect on how I arrived at this point, what lies ahead — and how much this unique community means to me.

Unlike some people who have adopted a coiled snake as their mascot, I believe in government and the important and sometimes essential role it plays in improving people’s lives. From that belief came an interest from an early age in politics as a means of ensuring that like-minded people would serve in government. (The fact that I grew up in Chicago, where politics is in the water system, may have had something to do with it as well.)

The politics/government connection drew me to this area and to Arlington some 40 years ago. Here we were absorbed into the Arlington Democratic family: some became surrogate grandparents; our kids grew up together; and I developed lifelong friendships with people who would become colleagues and co-workers in Arlington’s positive, person-to-person brand of politics. Then in 1997, when Judy Connally (whose first campaign I had managed) decided to retire as Delegate, my personal and professional circumstances made it possible for me to run to succeed her.

My 17 years in Richmond have reinforced how fortunate we are to be part of this community. We know the statistics: we’re well-educated; we’re affluent; we continue to have a dynamic, vibrant economy (our unemployment rate is consistently Virginia’s lowest).

We champion efforts that don’t necessarily benefit us directly. A prime example is K-12 funding. If there’s anything like a litmus test in Arlington, it’s support for our public schools. Yet, due to Virginia’s K-12 funding formula, Arlington receives relatively little state money for its world-class public schools — by and large, we pay for them through our local taxes.

But Arlington’s delegation in Richmond is united in defending K-12 funding in the state budget — it’s the right thing to do and makes us a better and stronger Commonwealth. (A tragic irony in the debate over Medicaid expansion is that some downstate members most vociferous in their opposition to expansion represent areas with disproportionate numbers of low-income uninsured people who desperately need access to health care.)

Unlike many other delegations in Richmond, we work well together — within the delegation and with our local elected officials.

We’re generally of the same political party and share the same political goals. But that’s not the complete answer: there are other one-party delegations that fight like cats and dogs, both among themselves and with their local officials. Rather, it’s based on mutual trust and respect within the General Assembly delegation and with our hometown boards and constitutional officers.

That’s paid off for Arlington. When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was in danger of moving out of Arlington, we worked together at the federal, state and local levels to keep DARPA headquarters here. Through strong working relationships developed over time in Washington, Richmond, and Arlington, we were able to achieve that goal.

DARPA is an example of how government investments in research and development as well as infrastructure pay enormous dividends in terms of national security, private sector growth and productivity — most famously as the place where the Internet got its start. DARPA’s continued presence is vital to Arlington’s economy and reputation for innovation.

A good share of my time in Richmond has been spent on “Arlington issues.” It’s a duty I’ve taken on gladly, and it’s one my successor must be prepared to assume.

This Arlington unity will become even more important. In a Dillon Rule state, Arlington’s delegation in Richmond must defend programs and policies in transportation, human rights, and other areas that reflect Arlington’s values and priorities developed through the community-centered process we call the “Arlington Way.”

A few weeks ago a Washington Post columnist noted that officials from surrounding jurisdictions sometimes refer to us as “Perfect Arlington” because sometimes we seem to view ourselves that way. While we have every reason to be proud of our accomplishments as a forward-looking, inclusive community, we need to be vigilant that satisfaction doesn’t become smugness and self-righteousness. I’ve found that a bit of humor doesn’t hurt either.

This is not a farewell address. While I’m moving on to new challenges, Arlington will always be my home. I’ll always be grateful to people who gave me the opportunity to be their voice and champion their values in Richmond. You’ll forever be in my thoughts.

Bob Brink is the Deputy Commissioner for Aging Services in the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. He represented Arlington in the Virginia House of Delegates from January 1998 to June 30, 2014.

Morning Poll: Bar Crawl Changes?

by ARLnow.com | June 30, 2014 at 10:15 am | 5,241 views | No Comments

Police cars at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Highland Street after a car chase ended in a crash (photo courtesy Keith Hall)Over the weekend, during the All American Bar Crawl in Clarendon, an intoxicated Alexandria man in his early 20s stripped naked and led police on a chase that ended in a crash on Wilson Blvd.

It’s the latest high-profile police incident involving a bar crawl attendee in Arlington. In March a Reston woman allegedly showed up naked at the Arlington Magistrate’s Office and demanded that she be allowed to visit her husband, who was arrested earlier that day. Both had attended the St. Patrick’s Day-themed Shamrock Crawl, according to police.

The drunken antics of bar crawl attendees continue to irk residents of the neighborhoods around Clarendon. Some are calling for additional restrictions, or even an outright ban, on bar crawls. On the other hand, supporters say bar crawls are fun events that provide a social outlet for younger residents and a big boost for local businesses.

What, in your opinion, should Arlington policymakers do about bar crawls, if anything? (Assume that reducing the frequency of bar crawls is inclusive of any changes in police staffing you might support.)
 

Progressive Voice: Popularity of Rocky Run Park

by Peter Owen | June 26, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 1,119 views | No Comments

Peter OwenProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Meeting the diverse interests of Arlington residents about how best to make use of available open space is not an easy challenge. The recent renovations at Rocky Run Park meet that challenge and are a tremendous success. Walk by any summer afternoon or evening and you will see Arlington’s residents out enjoying this newly updated park.

The park reopened in early April and the joy felt by park users is nearly palpable. Improvements to the 2.4 acre site include:

  • Playgrounds for both tots and school-age children
  • A new picnic shelter for birthday parties and social events
  • Two lighted hard-surface courts; one can be used for both basketball and volleyball
  • A lighted multi-use synthetic turf field for pick-up games
  • Exercise stations, benches and chess tables
  • Substantially improved ADA accessibility
  • Extensive landscaping, including additional planting near the adjacent substation

In addition, the county relocated the labyrinth previously located at Arlington’s Whitman Walker Clinic to provide a quiet and contemplative green space within the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor.

How did these renovations occur? I credit the successful collaboration between the community and county government.

The Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) Plan adopted in 2007 pointed to the park and its oversubscribed and outdated equipment as an opportunity for improvement. Kristine Wood, our hardworking NCAC representative, brought neighbors together to request action. Responding to her leadership, county staff initiated a conversation with the CCCA to scope the redevelopment of Rocky Run as an NCAC project.

Following months of dialogue, NCAC citizen volunteers recommended the project to the County Board for funding, which was accomplished through a combination of pay as you go and park bond funding.

With the funding plan in place, Department of Parks and Recreation staff met with a CCCA work group comprised of active and interested members of varying ages. Neighborhood children were directly consulted on playground and other aspects of the park. Feedback was sought from elderly neighbors about making the park attractive and accessible.

By the spring of 2011, a collaborative, conceptual design for the park was in place. After our Civic Association unanimously approved the concepts, county staff worked with project engineers to refine and finalize a construction design that earned support from the county’s Park and Recreation Commission and Environment and Energy Conservation Commission.

When the plans were widely publicized on ARLnow.com, most residents were pleased, but some neighbors expressed concerns about certain parts of the plans and their understandable expectation for more direct notice than that provided mainly by civic association volunteers. (Since then, I have seen the county make improvements in how it provides similar notices.)

Even at this stage in the community planning process, County Board members and staff met with nearby neighbors in the summer of 2012, heard their concerns, and ultimately made additional refinements to the park design. In November 2012, the County Board unanimously approved a $2.95 million contract to fund the first stage of park improvements.

What do we have to show for this investment of time and resources? Living a block away from the park and walking by it daily, I see how popular the park is with Arlington’s parents, children, amateur ballplayers and other residents. (more…)

The Right Note: State of Columbia Pike

by Mark Kelly | June 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,635 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyChairman Jay Fisette delivered a state of the county address at the annual Arlington Chamber of Commerce event this week. Job No. 1 for the chairman — tell everyone how great the Columbia Pike trolley will be.

Knowing words from the three supporters still on the County Board may not be enough to turn public opinion, so the Board will also ramp up a $650,000 ad campaign for the unpopular project. Any number of other projects in the County could be paid for with that money, as well as with the remainder of the $7-8 million contract. Or, they could have cut taxes and left that money in the local economy.

In his speech, Fisette claimed that running a trolley line down existing lanes of the Pike will not contribute to traffic congestion or accidents more than a bus or another car. He also pivoted to creating new affordable housing stock as an important rationale for the trolley.

A few years back, the Board made redeveloping Columbia Pike a priority. They made a part of that plan the form based code. Under the form based code, developers can essentially build without negotiating with the county on a site plan, provided they stay within the bounds of the code.

But, the Columbia Pike corridor is home to a high percentage of the most market-rate affordable housing in the county. This Board-driven redevelopment, happening now without the trolley in place, will gradually drive that market-rate affordable housing out of the county.

So, now the Board believes they must make replacing that housing stock a priority. The trolley, Fisette claims, will incentivize developers to work outside the form based code for additional density in exchange for creating affordable housing. Imagine Clarendon on the Pike. Of course, many disagree with Fisette’s assessment that additional density will make a substantial difference in attracting developers who will opt to pursue it.

Regardless of the disagreements over the merits of the Fisette plan, if implemented, we will have come full circle. The Board adds to the affordable housing shortage. Then the Board commits to spending taxpayer dollars to fix said crisis. And, in so doing, the Board sticks Arlingtonians with a long-term commitment to subsidizing the operations of a trolley line, over and above the additional construction costs. And worse, it will not substantially improve the ability to move people over improved bus service, which can be done at a fraction of the cost.

Fisette clearly disagrees on the efficacy of the improved bus service. “No possible bus system can handle that ridership growth,” he said. At the same time, the trolley system cannot handle the increased ridership on its own either. Buses will continue to run up and down the Pike with the trolleys. The half-billion price tag does not replace buses along the Pike, it would merely supplement them.

The bottom line — the trolley does not have an image problem that can be corrected with some slick advertising campaign or speeches by the chairman.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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